Can it be real? Can T-Mobile â the leaders of the professional cycling revolution, the sportâs new moral torchbearers, the team that sacked Jan Ullrich â really be contemplating a move for Alejandro Valverde?
Thus far all parties have denied the rumours, but, as the saying goes, thereâs rarely any smoke without fire. With this in mind we contacted a source within the German team on Monday. He confirmed that, yes, T-Mobile would be interested in having the Spaniard on board and that, yes, there was one space left on the teamâs roster to potentially accommodate him. The insider also hinted that Valverde had spoken to T-Mobileâs managers and agreed to submit to the conditions of the teamâs ethical and medical code. The only remaining problem was and is the riderâs existing agreement to ride for Caisse dâEpargne in 2007â¦
The respective big cheeses of the two teams may be negotiating to rescind that agreement as we speak. If they were, weâd be not a little surprised. Not by any deal per se. Not by its timing. Just by T-Mobile gambling on a rider whose name has flitted in and out of indiscretions on Operacion Puerto ever since the scandal broke.
The links to Valverde in the Puerto dossier may be tenuous, but ,as far as we can see, they are no less tenuous than the references to Ivan Basso and his family pet. Itâs actually a mystery to us that Valverde has competed largely free of suspicion ever since the summer. And itâd be even more mysterious if T-Mobile, the team which never tires of telling us that the law of â£guilty until proven innocentâ now prevails, took the risk of signing such a rider at this delicate stage in their new regime.
You may think that weâre being unfair. You may think that, if Valverde agrees to give a DNA sample, thereâs surely no issue here. You all may be right. Call us pedants, but weâd just be slightly disappointed if T-Mobile started basing its new ethos on legal formalities and not on gut instinct and a commitment to total transparency. In other words, we’d be disappointed if T-Mobile had their own doubts about a rider but put them to one side simply because that rider happened to be a) a Tour de France contender and b) available.
Itâs not so long ago that another team signed a rider who fulfilled both of the above conditions, and was the subject of a stinging condemnation by, guess who, T-Mobile. That riderâs name was Ivan Bassoâ¦